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This is from an unnamed, just-started WIP, with the placeholder name of “Bluebeard,” because it’s very loosely based on that fairy tale. Every year on the Winter Solstice, a sorcerer takes a sixteen-year-old girl as his bride, divorcing her and exiling her before he takes a new bride the next year.
Not that I expected to be chosen. He took the special girls–the beauties, the talented, the best—not a tomboy with too-short hair, scars, and more muscles than was seemly. I could take a bird on the wing with my bow, track a deer through the woods, and even in skirts, outride half the boys. My cooking was more homey than fine, my manners unpolished, and my voice too raspy for singing anything but folk songs. No different from many farm girls, tough and capable, doing the jobs that must be done to put food on the table.
On the Winter’s Solstice, carts would be sent to gather all the girls of age over the kingdom to the tower. We were bound to the land, by our blood and birth and living, but our sorcerer had come from across the sea, and his magic slid off our land’s icy toughness. He needed a bride on the longest night of the year, to make his magic stick. There were other solutions to be had, but the curse, much whispered of, demanded the ritual.
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This story is very loosely based on Bluebeard. The sorcerer is cursed, and the brides are caught up in the curse, though the nearby villagers don’t know how or why. He keeps the kingdom safe with his magic, and his brides tie him to a land he couldn’t otherwise protect. There are other ways to do this tying–but his curse demands a bride.